A chilling version of a Third World War is presented in this controversial wargame. Originally released over a year ago for the C64, the Spectrum version of Theatre Europe has at long last been released. The "problems" with this game occurred when the media got hold of the story that, whilst playing this game, one of your options was to launch a nuclear strike on your opponents. What everybody missed in their search for a story was the fact that Theatre Europe is very much against using nuclear weapons. Any one who tries using them is likely to find that there he is on the losing side and if he launches all of his missiles, then everyone ends up on the losing side.
The battlefield is fought right across Europe, although in practice the movement tends to be from east to west. Whilst everything has been kept as accurate as possible, considerable juggling had t be done with the numbers of troops on each side in order to mae the game playable for two players. (If the current numbers were used, the Warsaw pact has such a phenomenal numerical advantage as to make the game not worth playing.) The game is played over a series of days. Starting with the Warsaw pact the sequence of play is move, attack, rebuild and air phase. Then the NATO forces get the chance to reply.
The air phase gives you the chance to gain control of the airspace over the battlefield, attack enemy air fields, attack his supply network or make reconnaissance flights as you try to determine an enemy unit's strength. Each turn, you also get the chance to launch a special attack using either chemical weapons or a limited or all out nuclear strike. Before you use the nuclear option, you must enter the correct authorisation code which can be obtained by phoning a given number. This recorded message also gives details of the likely results of such an attack. In other words, you are made to think long and hard before going ahead with your strike. The best tactics for NATO are a general strategic withdrawal, fighting only where you have to.
Presentation of the game is excellent, with joystick and keyboard options and a highly legible map to follow the action on. There are three skill levels to choose from and you can play against the computer, another player or just sit back and watch the computer play against itself. As if that wasn't enough, you can also choose to take part in action screens in which you must try to destroy enemy planes with your guided missiles. Theatre Europe is an excellent wargame that will certainly make you think and pray that it never happens for real.